Held by All-That-Is

Autumn_WoodIt is good to situate ourselves within All-That-Is, understand ourselves as part of Creation, and give a sacred context to our lives. To live in relation to All-That-Is is to reside in the unfathomable and holy immensity of the universe. It is to be part of, and held by, a great unfolding mystery. Continue reading

Spirits, Shamans, and the Unsettling of Ecopsychology

DSC_0155I’ve been thinking about the links between Ecopsychology and Shamanism. It makes sense to me that Ecopsychology would be drawn to the wisdom of Indigenous people. After all, we Indigenous tend to see ourselves in the context of both human society and the natural world. The attraction of shamanism is that it attempts to maintain the balance between human and non-human communities. Continue reading

November and Remembrance

Autumn_WoodNovember is a month of Remembrance. Last weekend we honored the Ancestors and other departed loved ones. This week we remember the veterans who have served our country in peacetime and war. Later in the month Thanksgiving arrives with its complex patina of memory, culture and meaning.

November in Vermont brings dark gray skies and dramatic swings in temperature. There are few sunny days, night comes early, and the snow line slowly moves down the mountains. Here by the lake the wind has a bite when it comes from the west or northwest. As a result, we burn wood in the wood stove more often as the month and the cold advance.

The longer nights and deepening chill encourage us to turn inward, physically and spiritually, and the idea of hibernation becomes more inviting. As the month progresses the spirits seem to gather around the hearth; this is a time for sharing stories, personal, sacred and profane. It is a good time for remembering and appreciating those who made our lives possible, and pondering our role as bridges between the generations. Continue reading

Ancestors

Late_Autumn_FieldOn Saturday I met with a small group to teach practices for acknowledging, and working with, the ancestors. The time seemed propitious as the weekend coincided with sacred days honoring the dead in both the Catholic and Indigenous practices of the Americas. I was honored to spend time with these women, all of whom have sought to walk paths of beauty, living lives that honor Indigenous ways of knowing and being.

The ancestors are always with us, never leaving our sides, yet they seem more approachable now. The growing cold and lengthening darkness have long heralded their return to our communities, and a shift from the personal to the collective. Continue reading

Humor: When Cultures Go Bump In the Night

Autumn_LakeHumor is at the heart of many shamanic traditions around the world. Indeed, Indigenous people, contrary to popular perception, are very funny.  We like to laugh; at the same time, our humor often has teeth. A splendid example of this is the writing of Sherman Alexi. Another, more recent set of poignant, heartbreaking, often hilarious truth statements can be found at the Twitter hashtag, #ColonizedAnonymous, most beginning with “I was so colonized….”

Laughter is often, for oppressed people, an act of resistance and solidarity. Shared humor builds community and improves mental and physical health. It also may honey coat difficult messages, replacing shaming with play. Continue reading

A Dream

AstersA few nights ago I found myself dreaming about my relationship to All That Is. In the dream, I was deeply embedded in All That Is. From that place, I could see that all of my concerns were unimportant, that all was well; there was simply nothing worth worrying about.

Then my perspective in the dream changed. I still felt firmly connected to All That Is, yet I was more individuated. I became aware of my perspective as a human animal, filled with longing and apprehension. I could feel myself as a young person driven by hormones and anxiety, desire and dread. Then, suddenly I was something close to my chronological age, unsure of the future, experiencing pain, and attempting to work out some relationship to aging, and eventually, death. Continue reading

The Soft Heart that Soothes Suffering

Rainy_Autumn_ForestSaturday I spend time with a dear friend and colleague who is a beloved elder and healer. Over a fantastic lunch, with a mountain stream rushing along beside her home and a decidedly autumnal rain falling, we talked about our long friendship and the challenges we have faced. The discussion was, in turns, playful and serious, and deeply nourishing. We are both in our 60′s and have seen our share of challenges, personally, and in the lives of our families and clients; perhaps as a result we agreed suffering is inevitable, as is aging, which often brings its own suffering. We also agreed that it is a relief to soften one’s heart in the face of suffering; being present to pain is also an integral aspect of healing work, both for self and others. (Often, I find paying attention to my own pain is much more difficult than being with the pain of others.) Continue reading